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“I Am More Than My Kidney Disease…” AAKP Ambassadors Respond

March is National Kidney Month. Help spread the word about kidney disease this month by sharing your personal story, along with educational resources, with your friends, family, and community. Kidney disease is a silent killer–let’s end the silence.

In this article, AAKP Ambassadors share why they are more than their kidney disease. Read their responses and take a few moments to consider this statement for yourself. Share it with friends, families, and your community to spread knowledge and awareness this March.

I am a mom, I’m a registered nurse (RN), I’m a sister, I’m a daughter, I’m a cousin, I’m an aunt, and I’m an Ambassador for the AAKP and National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI).

Kidney disease will not stop me. It has made me stronger and taught me how to fight harder, not only for me, but for others like me. My goal is to bring positive changes within the kidney community that improve patients’ lives. I want to raise awareness of kidney disease, its urgency, and the dramatic effect it has on the United States health system. We can no longer  accept the status quo with so many people unaware they have this silent disease and thousands dying every day from it.

I’m a fighter, a survivor, and I don’t give up. I’m a kidney advocate champion and I am enthusiastic about helping people make their lives better by guiding, teaching, and empowering them to take care of their health. I’m a warrior with a lot of fight in me, and my battle is just getting started in helping other patients.

I am more than my kidney disease. I am a woman on a mission to spread awareness about kidney disease and living donation. I do this while trying to balance this crazy thing called life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is what I was called to do!

Hello, my name is Edward Drake II, and I am more than my kidney disease. I’m a survivor, a conqueror, and a more compassionate and selfless individual due to this chronic illness that abruptly entered my life as a college student during a time where I felt like I was living out my dream. This illness caused a lot of disruption and uncertainty, and forever changed my life. The irony of it all is at the time, I thought my life was changed for the worse and I couldn’t foresee the rainbow on the other side of the storm. I spent many nights and dialysis treatments crying, asking, “Why me?” until the Lord revealed to me, “Why not you?” I then began to change my outlook on my health situation and began to focus on the positives, like simply being alive to receive medical treatments. Once my outlook changed, so did my life! I began to visit and bond with children in the hospital regularly who needed organ transplants. I then founded the Youth Needing Organ and Tissue Transplants Foundation (YNOTT? Foundaton) in 2007.
I received a kidney transplant on October 8, 2008, from a deceased donor named Lianne who said yes to registering to become an organ and tissue donor. I’m forever grateful for her decision. Now looking back as a husband, a father-to-be later this year, a community servant, and a business investor, this great test led to an amazing testimony! 

I am not my kidney disease because I am a child of God through His Son Jesus Christ. God’s plan for my life has given me purpose and has worked out for my good. I am more than my kidney disease because I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie to 15 nieces and nephews, and a great aunt to 23 nieces and nephews. I love my family. I am more than my kidney disease because I am a teacher and businesswoman that founded a local kidney support group called the All Kidney Patient Support Group. When I was first diagnosed with kidney disease in 2019, I knew nothing about the illness. Now, I am a kidney advocate. I am an ESRD National Coordinating Center patient expert. I am an Ambassador for AAKP, and I participate in patient-centered outcome research projects. I am more than my kidney disease because I am adventurous and like to travel. I am an usher in my church, a Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Sister, and I volunteer for Child Evangelist Fellowship as a teacher. I am more than my kidney disease because I am joyful and I have a voice and a story. I am a friend and I care about people. I am Janice L. Starling, and I am more than my kidney disease.

I am more than my kidney disease. I am a father of two beautiful children. I am a son. I am a partner to someone I love dearly and who I strive to be the best for. I am a family man; I enjoy watching my son play soccer and my daughter play the trumpet in her school jazz band. I have friends who have supported me near and far. I enjoy hobbies like the love of baseball, especially the New York Mets. It helps me forget about my illness for a little while. I am also a kidney advocate and want to educate and help those impacted by kidney diseases get a clearer picture about this misunderstood disease. I am a person who has hopes and dreams to end kidney disease.

I aspire to be a voice at the table for all fellow kidney patients. I have learned that I am strong and capable, and that I can overcome any obstacle that comes my way. I have learned that there is always hope and that there is always something to be grateful for. I am more than my kidney disease. I am a person with a full life, and I will not let this condition hold me back.

I am more than my kidney disease. At age four, I went from being regular Philip to being a chronic kidney disease patient at the drop of a hat. I dealt with a lot of issues at a young age, but also had a lot of fight in me. I didn’t let my disease dictate how I would live my life or who I would be. I played like a normal kid and lived like a normal kid. I went on dialysis at 16 years of age and still played high school football because I was not going to let this disease tell me what I could and could not do. I was a person before I was a patient. I received a transplant at age 17 and had some issues several years afterward that landed me back on dialysis. I had emergency brain surgery during that time as well, and it took me a long time to recover, but I fought because I was not going to let this disease define who Philip Jones is and will be. I have fought my way back into the driver seat of my life and will be receiving a theatre arts and liberal arts degree this spring. To current kidney patients and those yet to be diagnosed: never allow your disease to define who you live your life as or who you become.

I am more than my kidney disease. I am strong, independent, and a warrior who will continue to fight kidney disease every day. I’m a full-time college student majoring in physical science and with the goal of becoming a laboratory technician one day. Kidney disease made me grow as a person and taught me how to communicate better to be able to open my mind to bigger opportunities. Kidney disease showed me how to appreciate my loved ones and to be more present in life. I am more than my kidney disease because kidney disease taught me how to appreciate and be more patient with myself.

I am so much more than my kidney disease! I am a mother of three beautiful adult children! They are my motivation to take exceptional care of myself. I am a community volunteer! Serving on various non-profit boards allows me to be connected to a diverse array of people and is so good for my emotional and mental health. I am a political activist! I have organized many state political conventions, served as a voting delegate to national political conventions, and organized rallies and marches. I am a wife! And, a most fortunate one. Twenty-three years ago, after being diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease and in need of a transplant, my husband became my donor. His unselfish gift has provided the two of us with time to create incredible memories together. I am so much more than my kidney disease and most grateful for this life!